Well, it depends. You can save over $20,000 on a Tesla at current market prices if you buy used, even if it’s only about 12 months old. That’s pretty insane when you really think about it.
But will you find those deals, and when you do, will they be worth it? Can a Tesla really undergo $20K worth of damage in a calendar year?
There’s a lot to look at, so let’s jump into the details and what you need to know about Tesla: both new and old.
History of Tesla
Tesla is the name when it comes to electric cars, and I don’t think that any of us question that for a second.
Other car companies trail behind them when it comes to rolling out their all-electric line, and because of that, Tesla has always had a chokehold on the marketplace.
Yes, we’ve seen some issues with the company losing value thanks to Elon Musk and his antics from time to time, but it always bounces back, because the products are that strong. Tesla offers more charging stations than anyone else, and overall better longevity for your vehicle.
So what’s the catch with all of this? What do we need to know about Tesla? They’re always innovating and making their vehicles better, but they’ve certainly hit snags in production quality and charge station quantity over the years.
If you’re just reading this now, you’re in the golden age of Tesla, so only buy 2019 to current models to run into fewer issues than their older cars.
How Good is Tesla Actually?
As a company, Tesla continues to prove themselves, but as a vehicle brand, they have hit their bumps in the road here and there.
Tesla is good now in 2021, but after a quick search, you’ll find plenty of war stories centered around Tesla.
Suffice to say, they’ve grown as a vehicle manufacturer, and as the only company that exclusively sells direct to consumers without dealerships in place, they’ve had to adopt an entirely new business model and make it their own. With everything they’ve had to innovate here, the fact that they landed on their feet with minimal issues is pretty astounding.
But there are issues when you own a Tesla, new or used. Batteries run out of the same level of capacity as time goes on, which is why if your Model Y can run for 350 highway miles when it’s brand new, a used 12-month-old model may only hit 330 miles for that same charge. It’s the nature of batteries.
You have to be careful to never put yourself in a bad situation where you could run out of charge. Many Tesla owners never let their battery get below half, otherwise charging times take longer, and the risk of running into the few Superchargers that close with business hours is no longer an issue.
Longevity of Tesla
Tesla hasn’t been around as long as other manufacturers, so we only have so much information to go off of. There are plenty of Tesla owners who are still on the road after having their Teslas since 2012, which should say something about longevity.
Much of these specific cases are a result of Tesla owners taking extra special care of their vehicle, and ensuring every maintenance issue is resolved in record time. Owning electric vehicles is also something new to, well, almost everyone—it has its learning curve.
Tesla makes the best electric cars out there, so learning how to manage and maintain them before ever reserving your Tesla delivery and putting down that Cybertruck deposit is imperative.
We’re bound to make mistakes with something new like this; unless we prepare ourselves ahead of time. Tesla runs into some manufacturing and quality control issues, but those are fear and few between based on what we’ve found.
Is Buying a Used Tesla a Good Idea?
If you want the quick answer: yes, yes it is a good idea, so long as you know what you’re looking for.
Teslas don’t depreciate the way that traditional combustion engine vehicles do, and for that, you can actually look at an older Tesla as an investment more than just a purchase.
Because a Tesla will lose five figures worth of its value that minute it’s dropped off at your home (the equivalent to being driven off the lot), but that’s not something you can avoid. Any car or vehicle is going to lose value once it becomes owned.
The difference here is that you can actually hold a lot of value and depreciate slowly, so if you’re the type to trade in your vehicle every 2-3 years, this would be a good path to take. Then you could sell and upgrade to a used version of whatever the newest model is.
Apart from it just being a good financial decision, let’s look at the other benefits that not everybody thinks of, and why you may want a Tesla:
No Oil Changes: Ah, doesn’t that sound nice? No more waiting at a gas station combination repair shop for 55 minutes when they said it would take 15. No more motor oil spills in the driveway. You’re completely free. Because these electric engines don’t use traditional motor oil, it’s just a thing of the past. That also means you’re not going to grumble under your breath because the change oil light has been on for three months.
You Don’t Have to Stop For Gas Anymore: Used vehicles get less MPG, but with a Tesla, that isn’t a worry no matter how you look at it. That means you’re not going to have to stop more frequently for gas because you bought a used combustion engine vehicle. In fact, there should be little to no degradation in the battery, so you won’t even have to stop more often to use a Supercharger.
Inexpensive Maintenance: There are less working parts to a Tesla than a combustion engine, so even if it’s used, there are fewer things that could go wrong if you’re driving a Tesla over a standard car. While maintenance is cheaper, you’re also going to have to account for the fact that repair costs are higher, which we’ll get into in a moment.
Things to be Aware of
Used Means Private Sale: When you buy a brand new Tesla, you get it straight from the company. There are no go-betweens. That’s a good thing, but when you buy used, it’s all private sales. You don’t have the same surety when you’re dealing with Joe Schmoe off of Craigslist that you have from dealing with the company directly. You have to watch out for anyone that’s trying to do you wrong.
Vehicle Inspection: If this is your first time buying a Tesla, you’re going to have a hard time knowing what to look for. This video helps you learn how to inspect your Tesla right away, and while this is relative to delivery day when you buy direct, you can apply the same practice to used Teslas before you seal the deal and make a purchase.
Holds Value: The only time that a Tesla depreciates is when it’s driven off the lot, otherwise it’s a very, very slow depreciation process. You’re not going to suddenly wake up with a thousand less dollars of value in your Tesla sitting in the driveway. The parts can be recycled, are still expensive, and because Teslas endure far less wear than combustion engine vehicles, they stay in tip top shape for longer.
Repair Costs: If you’re a stickler for the exterior appearance of your car (and at these prices, you really should be), then you should go over any used Tesla with a fine-toothed comb. Some states are very strict on what can and cannot pass a state vehicle inspection based on sharp areas of a car’s body, meaning mild damages could keep your car off the road (this is dependent on the state you’re in and how hardcore their rules are). Not to mention that, but Tesla repairs, even for just body damage, and ridiculously expensive.
It Could be a 50/50 Decision
Cars aren’t getting any cheaper, whether they’re electric or combustion engines. With the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting the automobile industry, used cars in general are nearly three times more expensive than they were, depending on the area you’re in.
With a Tesla, prices are affected by much more than just the market. Used Teslas need to undergo a rigorous check to ensure that they’re up to snuff and won’t burn out on you, that is, if it’s a private sale. When you buy a used Tesla, you can’t get it direct from Tesla like you can with newer models.
That being said, it could still be a flip of the coin. Be vehemently detailed when you inspect a used Tesla before you buy it.
Noel Joseph has been in the world of motor vehicles for a long period. Currently, he is enthusiastic about Electric & Hybrid Motors and is an independent researcher. He advocates for a clean and sustainable future and envisions utilizing his years of experience in mechanical engineering. His new venture here at CompactPower.com is to organize and simplify knowledge on Electric vehicles. He wants to build a space where people can talk about EVs and associated technologies with freedom.